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Nature and Environment

News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.

The State of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

By Sean Rosner

Tags: oil, water pollution, Gulf oil spill, BP, offshore drilling,

As most of you probably already know, the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is shaping up to be one of the United States’ worst environmental disasters in recent history.

If you’ve missed out, or just want a central source of information on the event, here’s where things stand at the moment:

Everything started with an explosion on the British Petroleum-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, which killed 11 workers and left several others injured. When the rig sank and turned over two days later, oil from the well began spilling out toward the gulf coast at the rate of 200,000 gallons per day. See this New York Times interactive map for a visualization of the spill.

Area wildlife is at huge risk due to the spill, not to mention the region’s fishing and tourism industries.

The spill could potentially surpass the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident, which spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. As of Saturday, the total size of the spill was estimated at more than 2 million gallons.

Perhaps the scariest aspect of the whole situation is that BP doesn’t seem to have a sure-fire way to stop the spill. The company has made several attempts to seal the leak at the source with remote-controlled vehicles, but has yet to be successful.

Cleanup efforts have been thwarted thus far by inclement weather that has caused rough seas, but with calmer weather today, BP has begun the process of installing a containment dome that will allow workers to capture escaping oil and pump it to the surface. The process is supposed to take seven to 10 days. In the meantime, chemical dispersants and oil skimmers will be used, and authorities are doing controlled burns of oil slicks approaching the coast. Of course, these methods raise environmental health questions as well, as lots of questions remain over the consequences of using chemical dispersants in an ocean environment and the controlled burns result in vapors that could harm people living near the coast. The Environmental Protection Agency recently set up a website to help monitor air quality along the coast.

The spill has brought a lot of attention to the offshore drilling bill that the Obama administration passed recently, and Obama has announced that he’s putting a hold on offshore drilling expansion. There may also be implications on the pending climate and energy bill.

If you’d like to contribute to the oil spill relief and cleanup efforts, you can sign up with the Sierra Club, or see this list of volunteer opportunities.

1/10/2014 5:47:39 AM


1/10/2014 5:47:03 AM

5/18/2010 7:12:46 AM

Gas prices from BP should be frozen as well as BP's assets. Working directly from BP's bank accounts for funding-the government needs to jump in full force to work on this clean up. Enough of who's falt it is, we know that, our world is at stake. Its the only mother earth we have. Stand up Mother Earth News! Take a stand! Rally the troups! Take the lead! Is your heart breaking over the lost of mother nature like mine is?

5/13/2010 10:02:02 PM

Would I like to contribute to the oil spill relief???? BP is a criminal cabal with deep pockets. They made the mess and they should be held responsible for cleaning it up. I would not mind never owning or driving a gas dependent vehicle again.

5/10/2010 5:13:54 PM

Last Sunday gas went up .16 at the pump from Sat. if that increase went across the country that would amount to 60 million a day. Who do you that will pay for the spill???

5/10/2010 3:40:57 PM

The issue to drill or not to drill is a moot point. All the $$$,$$$,$$$ spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars should have been put towards making the USA energy independent by funding renewable energy. At those $$$ amounts, we would have been well on our way by now! The real issue about drilling off our shore is the safety aspect. No doubt some bean counter reasoned that saving a little money on the parts and labor for installing the safety shut off was a better idea that SAFETY. Now they loose much more in the oil lost, not counting the cleanup costs as well as the damage to the environment.

tim nelin
5/10/2010 9:31:04 AM

The problem is unsolvable until we become less interested in making life as easy as possible, taking as much as we can from whoever we can, for as little as we can, and not realizing that we must pay, sooner or later, for that which we receive. When we become accountable for everything we have and do and only then, will a solution to this and the rest of our problems become possible!